gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: culture

Present vs. Past

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Ok one more shout out to The New York Times Style Magazine Letter to the Editor…for now at least! “Present Tense” by Hanya Yanagihara spoke to me because in it she discusses how different the sense of history is in the U.S. versus other parts of the world. She mentions Rome specifically and its deep history that is literally alive all around you. Growing up in Rome I had the unbelievable fortune of experiencing this everyday, without realizing the magnitude of it at the time.

Any first-time (or hundredth-time, for that matter) traveler to Rome can’t help but marvel at how lightly, and with what matter-of-factness, the Italians live among antiquities: A walk down the street is a stroll across thousands of years; the 2,000-plus-year-old Largo di Torre Argentina, excavated in the late 1920s, was where Caesar died, but it is also where the city’s cats congregate for a sun-drunk loll. Other cities would have placed such a monument in a museum, behind walls and off-limits — here, though, there is so much history that such an approach is impossible. Instead, the Italians have learned that every building, every structure, is a palimpsest, and that their lives within it, superannuated or brief, contribute another layer to its long narrative.

It’s true that Romans walk around their city with ease  and a nonchalantness about their surroundings. I mean how lucky are they to have been plopped there by birth and can call that parcel of this world their home. How lucky was I?? And as Yanagihara points out, Romans contribute to their long, ancient history, in whatever finite way possible.

The oldness of a place like Rome, and the newness of the U.S. is apparent in the way that we, as Americans, approach our daily life, versus the Romans. The impatience and instant gratification of American culture is a testament to this. We don’t have a long history to look back on, and therefore looking forward, with a sense of restlessness, is the only way we know. Romans, on the other hand, take life as a stroll, literally and figuratively. They have such an extensive history to look back on and to reflect on how they got to where they are  now, that they are not in a hurry to go anywhere. I think this is true in the larger scheme of things, but it is also apparent to anyone who visits Rome and has to slow down their pace to match that of the Romans. While this may be frustrating for Americans, I think slowing down is only a positive practice.

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Living in my grandparents’ house

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I recently moved for a new job, which is conveniently located where my grandparents live, and while they do not live at home but in a nursing home, I am living in their house. Living in someone else’s house can be strange, especially when it’s still full of all their things. However, when it’s someone you know or are close to, it’s not quite as strange. In fact, I am rather enjoying living in my grandparents’ house.  Of course, I am lucky because they have a rather nice house. It’s full of art, books, records, Scandinavian furniture, culture, and history. I can feel the culture and history because I know about my grandparents’ past, but to a guest who might not know about my grandparents’ past, the culture and history might not be as obvious. My grandparents are immigrants from Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and they escaped when the Russians invaded. Their story is very interesting to me because I can’t imagine going through what they had to go through…having things like their homes taken away from them, their rights to do certain things, and ultimately leaving their families behind to have a better life elsewhere. So with these things in mind, I look around the house and take in all the history and culture as much as I can. There is something that feels very foreign about the house, but in a good way. It transports me to a different time and place that is unknown to me, but no less interesting.

A different world

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I recently had an encounter with someone on a completely different level from myself, just from a different world. I was out east visiting my grandfather in Massachusetts, and I met with one of my his former students that was in town and went to visit him. As she speaks about her life, it seems as though it is just so cultured and beyond what I can imagine to be someone’s actual daily life. She is Indian and she lives in Oslo and has also spent time in Singapore, she knows how to speak French Norwegian, and Hindi, besides English, she has had a successful career in finance working on Wall Street, she was educated in Ivy League schools, she lived in Paris when she was younger and then New York, she is married to a Norwegian, and she has three kids with very bright futures ahead of them. She also just built a nice modern house in MA with custom touches throughout. While in MA she plays golf everyday and enjoys summer plays. As I listened to her speak, I found her very cultured and interesting, but also privileged, critical, and pretentious. It’s great that she has had the background that she has and is able to live the way she can, but not everyone has the same opportunities. Not everyone has a multicultural, worldly family, not everyone can go to an Ivy League school, either because of prior education and grades or financial means, and not everyone can have a successful career in stocks. So while I was very interested in her and inspired by her as a model to aspire to, I was also discouraged because it seems unattainable for most people, including myself.